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Face of NIWA sacked for talking to media

Tsehai Tiffin

Published: 6:59PM Friday April 24, 2009 Source: ONE News

One of New Zealand's top climate scientists has just been fired from his job at the National Institute of Water & Atmospheric research (NIWA). 

Dr Jim Salinger has been the public face of the organisation for three decades, but says it was his unauthorised talking to the media that's got him sacked.
Salinger, whose work as a science communicator has earned him accolades and even contributed to a Nobel Peace Prize, says he is now planning to sue his former employer for unjustified dismissal because according to him, he cannot understand why he was sacked.

"It's not as though I'm doing bad science, it's not as though I'm not performing and so I'm really astounded".

What got Salinger fired is something that in the past brought him high praise - talking to the media.

Salinger says he always believed that his media work actually brought NIWA into repute.

And indeed, NIWA is not claiming any concern about what their principal scientist actually said to the media. It's that he defied new policy - speaking publicly without gaining prior approval.

One instance of what NIWA calls "serious misconduct" was when he participated in a ONE News story about the shrinking of New Zealand's glaciers.

Another case where he was quoted was described as insubordination.

But Salinger says the reasons given for his dismissal are not strong enough to get him fired.

"As scientists we're all a bit eccentric and we all might slightly break protocol, but it's not going to destroy NIWA".

And Dr John Lancashire from the NZ Institute of Agricultural & Horticultural Science agrees with Salinger's views.

"I'm not aware of any other country sacking a Nobel award winner or for that matter a companion of the Royal Society of NZ, so that's a bit strange I'd have to say".

NIWA says it will not talk about an employment issue publicly, but says it had given him warnings before his dismissal.

Late Thursday, Dr Salinger arrived home from NIWA for the last time. He may head the World Commission for Agricultural Meteorology, but now has no job to go to in his own country.

His work now is to make room for over 30 years of scientific papers - the quality of which is not in question.